BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Over 200,000 homes and commercial buildings will be installed with smart electricity and water meters over the next five years, a government move that aims to address the non-payment of utility bills and reduce wastage of resources.

The telco DST announced that the new prepaid electric and water meters will be rolled out to 2,000 households in the first phase, starting as early as next week.

The utility meters, dubbed Unified Smart Metering System (USMS), was launched on Friday to replace the existing prepaid electricity meters introduced in 2012.

DST will be responsible for installing the new meters, as part of a public-private partnership project with the government to build a ‘Smart Nation’.

During the launch, General Manager of DST Network Juliana Sim said the smart meters will allow every Bruneian household to monitor and manage their energy and water usage online.

The smart meters can provide real-time energy and water consumption data and up-to-date billing including notifications using 3G/4G SIMs.

She said the public will be able to reload credit on the Unified Smart Metering System website, or through mobile apps, DST Easi Credit, third-party top-ups and authorised resellers.

General Manager of DST Network Juliana Sim (R) demonstrates the Unified Smart Metering System to ministers at the launch of the system on Feb 28, 2020. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew, who launched the USMS at The Empire Brunei, said the prepaid meters will allow the government to reduce its spending and promote efficient energy and water resource management.

Brunei has the highest water consumption in ASEAN, with outstanding water bills amounting to $39 million by the end of 2016.

Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin, who is also the second minister of finance and economy, said smart meters will empower consumers with real-time information, enabling them to better manage their utilities consumption and finances.

He added that it will help Brunei overcome some of the long-term challenges in ensuring an affordable, secure and sustainable utilities supply.

“The introduction of ICT in this industry will mean increased efficiency in supply management. For water, technology can help reduce non-revenue water i.e. water leakages.

“For power, technology will be able to manage and record performance and help adjust resource-conscious habits of the consumers,” the minister added.

He said government agencies will be able to improve collection to manage recovery of bad debts and reduce, if not eliminate, non-technical losses such as theft or meter tampering.

“Most importantly, the unified smart metering platform will act as a catalyst for other smart initiatives. These may and can include smart home, smart transport, e-health, building management and more. The opportunities hereon are endless.”

Speaking to reporters, Sim said DST can start installing the meters next week, but the Department of Electrical Services and Department of Water Services will determine the areas that will be included in the first phase of implementation.

The replacement of existing meters will be free of charge, but new houses or buildings will incur an undisclosed fee.

Members of the public can apply for the new smart meters at the Public Works Department and Department of Electrical Services counters.

DST will also begin an apprenticeship programme for Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) students on installation and maintenance of the smart metering system.

The students will undergo the training conducted by Department of Electrical Services,  Berakas Power Company and Dutch smart meter supplier Xemex.